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What are the Falcons getting with RB Wayne Gallman?

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Falcons coaching staff praised Qadree Ollison early on in the summer, and it’s still very possible that Ollison will be back with the Falcons as a practice squad player in the days ahead. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith were always going to look for additions after the cutdown to a 53 man roster, though, and when Wayne Gallman became available they obviously felt they had to pounce.

The question is why they did, and it’s actually an easy question to answer. Wayne Gallman is a quality back coming off a quality season, and the Falcons are clearly looking for more proven, physical additions to the backfield. When Gallman became available because the 49ers backfield is deep and they opted to go with young backs, the Falcons found a good fit and got him in the building.

As I wrote back when the Falcons signed Mike Davis, this team was never going to sign Derrick Henry but was absolutely looking for a physical back who could take a puny attempt at a tackle and pick up additional yards. Davis was 16th in yards after contact and 14th in average yards after contact in 2020, as well as 5th in broken tackles despite not being a full-time starter in 2020. With some question marks along the offensive line and Smith’s preference for hammers with legs in his backfield, that signing make a lot of sense. Davis also happened to be affordable, a strong receiving option and capable blocker, and someone without a ton of wear and tear.

Gallman, like Davis, was a capable back in 2020 who took over for an injured elite player. He did quality work for the Giants on the surface, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, managing 682 yards on the ground and scoring 6 touchdowns taking over for an injured Saquon Barkley. But Gallman also was 22nd in the NFL in yards after contact, 13 yards ahead of Todd Gurley with 48 fewer carries and 10th in average yards after contact. He, too, showed an ability to smash through defenders and pick up additional yards by keeping his legs moving and not shying away from contact. The entire backfield is built that way, given that Cordarrelle Patterson would’ve been 11th in attempts per broken tackle and is a strong, aggressive runner in his own right. Gallman is probably the weakest receiver of the trio, but he’s solid enough if called upon.

Also, he’s a good blocker.

The 49ers had a stacked backfield and were able to comfortably let Gallman go, and anyone expecting him to step into the picture here in Atlanta and dominate is undoubtedly expecting too much. Arthur Smith’s plan to replace one bellcow runner, the kind he had in Tennessee, is by stacking up multiple capable, low-cost options who have recently demonstrated that they can power through the kind of contact they’re inevitably going to face behind a line that’s not going to be excellent in 2021, and he still has Caleb Huntley and likely either Ollison or D’Onta Foreman on the practice squad to turn to if he needs to.

This is a typically long-winded way of saying the Falcons added another capable back in Gallman, as well as someone who fits with what this team wants for its backfield. In a week where Josh Andrews is headed to injured reserve and there are plenty of places on this roster to fret about depth, he’s a welcome addition.